Upscale Italian dining meets blue checkered tablecloths for a dinner perfectly suited for parents or partners alike. Though still a young restaurant in the city’s scene, Maialino has entwined itself with the culture and experience of Gramercy Park, making it an establishment not to be missed on a tour of New York.
With a name that translates to "little pig," Maialino is exactly the kind of restaurant it promises to be - a cozy, charming, and sophisticated take on the classic Roman trattoria. Located just off the lobby of the Gramercy Park Hotel, the restaurant is upsale yet comfortable, elegant and storied yet familiar and relaxed. If you have any experience with the rest of Danny Meyer’s restaurant empire, it’s no surprise that Maialino is a successful, conceptually solid interpretation of local Italian culture, with rich, mouthwatering dishes served from the most jovial staff.
Chef Nick Anderer has thrived at Maialino, throwing together simple ingredients for thoughtful and exceptional takes on the Roman originals. Sauces tend to be richer and cream-based, like the Pappardelle swaddled in a milk-braised pork ragu with grana padano for a rich, silky, and lemony pasta course. The Spaghetti alla Carbonara is full of smoked guanciale, folded with heavy doses of egg and crushed black pepper for powerful, indulgent flavor.
The Garganelli with duck ragu and Castelvetrano olives from Sicily features thick, tubular bites of pasta in a tomato-based sauce that also manages to expertly balance the hearty depth of the rustic duck with the bites of Mediterranean acidity from the olives.
But of course, the pig is the star here, and if possible, every meal should start with some of the restaurant’s particularly luscious charcuterie, especially the Prosciutto di Parma from Emilia-Romagna, whose silky, salty, and rich flavor almost melts into the fresh bread that never seems to disappear from the table. The Maialino al Forno, the roasted suckling pig with rosemary potatoes, is a feature on many tables, a juicy, tender, and simple preparation showcasing pork at its highest quality.
True to many of Danny Meyer’s brilliant establishments, the food at Maialino is excellent and deeply satisfying to all tastes, but it is the atmosphere, the staff, and the general understanding of the restaurant that makes first time diners desperate to return. There is a sense that Maialino anchors Gramercy Park, as it faces the dark wrought iron fences with dim evening lights peering out from large, historic windows, and there is a sense that enjoying a meal at the restaurant is equivalent to experiencing, enjoying, and understanding the neighborhood itself.
Yes, a dinner at Maialino is like a dinner in Rome. But more importantly, a dinner at Maialino is a dinner in Gramercy Park, as the restaurant has defined itself and its neighborhood as irrevocably inseparable. And that, in fact, is the ultimate triumph of a restaurant, and the ultimate triumph of Maialino.